Tuesday, June 10, 2008

You're the Voice

by Christine Wells

When you watch music videos on television or listen to the radio and you hear a song you haven't heard before--what makes you decide whether you like it? If it's by a band that's familiar to you, how do you know who's playing? Think of all the songs you know by almost as many artists. How can you tell a Coldplay song from REM? Shania Twain from Pink?

There are twenty of us Banditas in the lair, yet I'm pretty sure I could tell who wrote the day's post without looking at the byline. How do I know? Choice of subject matter, for one. The personal philosophy that underpins the post. The rhythm of the sentences, the tone of the jokes, how much it makes me cry (yes, that would be you, Cassondra!) Pet words, use of language and metaphor, even the structure and layout. In all these details, a writer leaves her mark, just like a signature or a thumb print.

In the book biz, we call the distinctive sum of all those parts voice.


As writers, we are often frustrated and baffled by the way editors and agents stress voice above all else as the most important factor in their decision to buy a new author's work. It's so unquantifiable, so inexplicable. But ask yourself--what sort of song do you want to hear from a band you've yet to come across? Can you describe the essential ingredients that will guarantee your enjoyment? Or is it really a 'know it when you hear it' kind of thing? I think, if you're honest, you'd say the latter.

I've never been a huge fan of reality television shows (other than my strange fascination with Project Runway) but occasionally, I catch a glimpse of American Idol. The thing that often strikes me is that many of these people have talent but often it's not a distinctive talent (yet). They don't have the whole package that sets them apart from the rest. Sometimes, it's because a thin slip of a girl chooses a gutsy, raw song that doesn't suit her voice or her look. Let's face it, someone who looks and sings like a pixie isn't likely to carry off a heavy metal song, no matter how hard she tries. Sometimes, it's that the contestant is trying too hard to be technically perfect and that polished technical perfection doesn't show us their soul or their heart. They've polished all their rough, interesting edges away.

Unfortunately, a distinctive voice isn't something you can easily or deliberately acquire. Some people have it from the start. For others, it takes practice and experimentation to find what kind of story and style fits their personality. And for some, voice is something they have to recapture after critique groups and contests have ironed it out of their work. Whatever the case, a unique voice is worth striving for, nurturing and protecting, because it's the most valuable asset an artist can have.


Now, to get your hands on some Bandit booty--if you're a writer, pick three words to describe your voice. If you're a reader, pick three words to describe the voice of your favourite author, or one of the Banditas on the blog.


For fun, I've grabbed a few books from my keeper shelf and typed out some lines. First of all, can you tell me who wrote it and the title (bonus points for the title!) how you think the voices in the paragraphs differ, what similarities you see. What is it about these paragraphs that show the writer's distinctive voice?

And if you can't be bothered doing any of that, hit me with your favourite quote from your favourite romance and I'll see if I can tell you why that voice is distinctive! Hmm, this is just like Mrs Davidson's English class. But more fun! And there are prizes! C'mon, work with me here, people!

A Dangerous Duke diary goes to one lucky reader and a signed copy of Scandal's Daughter to the first to get all the quotes right.

#1 Bucolic peace is not my ambience, and the giving of tea parties is by no means my favourite amusement. In fact, I would prefer to be pursued across the desert by a band of savage Dervishes brandishing spears and howling for my blood...Emerson once remarked that if I should encounter a band of Dervishes, five minutes of my nagging would unquestionably inspire even the mildest of them to massacre me. Emerson considers this sort of remark humorous.

#2 Once, there were more of us.
Once we roamed the skies unfettered, masters of the four winds. We chased the sun and devoured the moon, sprinkled across the heavens like fierce, relentless stars.

#3 Dr Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse. He had attended a surprisingly easy calving, lanced one abscess, extracted a molar, dosed one lady of easy virtue with Salvarsan, performed an unpleasant but spectacularly fruitful enema...

#4 Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch-hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage...
#5 As I slid into my chair at the breakfast table and started to deal with the toothsome eggs and bacon which Jeeves had given of his plenty, I was conscious of a strange exhilaration, if I've got the word right.
#6 A hot wind was blowing around my head, the strands of my hair lifting and swirling in it, like ink spilled in water.

144 comments:

Anna Campbell said...

Can it be?

Anna Campbell said...

YES IT CAN!!!! COME TO ME, CHOOKY, CHOOK, CHOOK!!! Clearly he was ready for some R&R in Oz. What's that, chook? As far away from military camp as you can get? He made you do WHAT???!!! It's OK, babeeee. You just sit in the corner and relax. We have Tim Tams to make you feel at home.

Anna Campbell said...

Ooh, Christine, what a great blog and what a great competition. I've got a couple of them, I think. A couple have left me completely stymied!

OK, voice - YOU, Madame. Elegant. Witty. Urbane.

ME - hmm, that's a tough one. Might leave that for the moment.

Cassondra - heartfelt, emotional, true.

p226 said...

Three words to describe my voice?

Since I have no idea if I've found it yet...

They'd have to be...

undefined, new, and ... uh...

er...

Maybe sophmoric?

I have no idea. No one's ever tried to describe my voice before, since no one's read much of my stuff. Least of all me. Voice is not something I think about when writing. Because I think it's a completely subconscious thing. It is for me anyway. Brain sees the story unfold, fingers try to keep up with documenting the vision. We'll see one day, though. We'll see if I have a voice.

Christine Wells said...

Ooh, Foanna, me likey that description very much! Thank you! Congratulations on winning the GR! Hope you're feeding him some of those scrummy roast potatoes and your decadent chocolate slice. Hmm, can you tell I'm on a diet? I"m thinking of food.

OK, Foanna's fiction voice is different from her blog voice. It's a bit hard to write blogs that are emotional, intense and exquisitely wrought, isn't it? OK, that's four words but it's my game, so there. Blog voice is warm, friendly and chatty.

Anna Campbell said...

Oooh, Madame, will you come and be my publicist? I LOVE that description. Exquisitely wrought? Wow, that's, um, elegant, witty and urbane!

P226 - better sophomoric than sopomorphic, methinks!

Christine Wells said...

P226, I'd describe your voice as raw, muscular and wry.

Yes, I think it's best not to think about voice. It's only when you can't seem to get the right fit between your genre and your voice that you need to try to analyze it and work out why. Now if you, P226 decided to write heartwarming women's fiction, I'd say try something more suited to raw, muscular and wry:)

Christine Wells said...

You know, I'd be an excellent publicist. I'm so good at tooting OTHER people's horns.

Darcy Burke said...

Okay, I'll play. Three words that describe my voice: emotional, witty, and lush. At least that's what I hope. I dunno, someone who's read my books will have to verify.

On a side note: did you watch American Idol this year? I know you're in Australia, but unlike us I think you get to watch our Idol (wish we got Australian Idol because I've heard awesome things about it). I usually lose interest a few weeks after the audition rounds, but I was completely drawn in by David Cook this year and you just explained why! Voice! And not his technical, actual singing voice. The way he interprets and delivers a song. The way he carries himself. All the things that go into a performing artist that define them, much as the words we choose define us.

Great post, Christine!

Christine Wells said...

Hi Darcy, no I'm sad to say I didn't see this season's Idol. Not sure whether it would have aired yet here but maybe some other Aussie can tell me. I hardly ever watch television, just catch the odd episode and wouldn't have a clue which season it is. But it's great to hear that you found and enjoyed someone who had it all.

And congrats on your Golden Heart final! It sounds like your voice is gaining recognition--great stuff.

flchen1 said...

Ooh, congrats on the GR, Anna! And lovely post, Christine, but WAY too hard for me to be thinking about at this time of night... going to slink off to bed now and maybe give this a try tomorrow, when I'm not recovering from a day in the sun running a game booth for my oldest's school year-end carnival! ;)

Christine Wells said...

Hi Fedora, sounds like you need major R&R after a day like that!! You're excused from class today, but tomorrow you'll need a note from your mom!

Minna said...

Three words to describe the voice of my favourite author? Exiting, fun, creepy.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Congrats on the Chook, Fo!

I must say I'm jealous that he gets TimTams. :-(

Excellent post, Madame! Voice is so difficult to describe or even grasp. You did a masterful job comparing it to the song by the singer you haven't heard yet.

I know I'm another whose "blog voice" is different from my "writing voice." My blog voice is more sarcastic and irreverent. Hmmm, I'll leave it to someone else to come up with the third word. Maybe Jo-mama or someone else who has read some of my work will come up with a description of my writing voice...

You and Fo are SPOT ON describing each other's writing voices! Elegant, witty and urbane is "Scandal's Daughter" to a T!

And both CTC and "Untouched" are intense, emotional and exquisite!

finished with my galleys and off to watch Letterman,
AC

Christine Wells said...

Minna, give us a clue--who is it??

Christine Wells said...

Hi AC, I'd say your blog voice also shows a lot of heart--a nice balance for the sarcasm/ irreverence! Looking forward to getting acquainted with your fiction voice. Congrats on finishing your galleys. What a great feeling!

Jane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jane said...

I would characterize my favorite author's voice as eloquent, charming and intelligent. Of course these apply to all the Banditas, too. I'm not familiar with those quotes. I could cheat and Google them, but I won't.

Congrats on the GR, Anna.

Minna said...

And hey, what about for instance the song by Tears for Fears, that sounds very much like a Beatles song:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_DfPNU-oM4

Minna said...

Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb

Natalie Hatch said...

Um my voice? Well it changes with each book. At the moment it's a bit edgy, entertaining, exciting?

Denise Rossetti said...

Oooh, Christine! You Elegant, Witty, Urbane little thang. *snork* But yes, and I'd add sparkling to the mix. Even mischievous. (Sometimes.)

I'm intrigued by the extracts, but I think the ones I know (well, maybe) or more because of the clues in the paras than the voice. But let's see what I can do...

#1. Amelia Peabody and the divine Emerson, by Elizabeth Peters
#2. Shana Abe (dragons?)
#3. No clue, but I like it very much
#4 Jane Austen
#5 P.G. Wodehouse (do you think Jeeves might have been a giveaway?)
#6 No clue, but again, it's good

Not sure about my voice, except that I hope it's different. Sensate? Muscular? (I like that idea, muscular prose, mmm...) Lyrical?

And yes, the blog voice is different, more "me" instead of "them."

Helen said...

Congrats Anna I am sure he will enjoy his stay with you and the Tim Tams

Great post Christine I am not a writer and I don't know any of the book quotes.
As for describing my favourite authors voice I will give it a go but I am not very good at this type of exercise
Sensual Witty Strong
This refers to a lot of the authors I read not just one, all of the Banditas have such caring witty and just plain fun voices to me that is one of the reasons I love visiting. You all make me feel at home.

Have Fun
Helen

Carol said...

Congrats Anna, the bird has flown...to the Land Downunder!

Christine! What fun!
I have no idea!
So I’ll make it up as I go along!

#1
Bucolic peace is not my ambience, and the giving of tea parties is by no means my favourite amusement. In fact, I would prefer to be pursued across the desert by a band of savage Dervishes brandishing spears and howling for my blood...Emerson once remarked that if I should encounter a band of Dervishes, five minutes of my nagging would unquestionably inspire even the mildest of them to massacre me. Emerson considers this sort of remark humorous.

My Early Life By German Gear… (Mis-spelt deliberately…to save a law suit)


#2
Once, there were more of us. Once we roamed the skies unfettered, masters of the four winds. We chased the sun and devoured the moon, sprinkled across the heavens like fierce, relentless stars.

Dungeons and Dragons
By Sir Walter Scott


#3
Dr Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse. He had attended a surprisingly easy calving, lanced one abscess, extracted a molar, dosed one lady of easy virtue with Salvarsan, performed an unpleasant but spectacularly fruitful enema...

‘All Creatures Great and Small’ By Tricky Woo

#4
Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch-hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage...

‘In-Breeding Prevents Reading’
By Ima Peer.


#5
As I slid into my chair at the breakfast table and started to deal with the toothsome eggs and bacon which Jeeves had given of his plenty, I was conscious of a strange exhilaration, if I've got the word right

‘Kevin Rudd Memoirs’ with Edits by his Personal Assistant Jeeves

#6
A hot wind was blowing around my head, the strands of my hair lifting and swirling in it, like ink spilled in water.

‘How to land in the moat and survive!’ By Rapunzel.

...(This one is hard to be silly about! It is a lovely sentence)

Cheers Carol

Christine Wells said...

Aw, shucks, Jane! Thanks so much. Who is your favourite author? Sounds like someone I'd like to read also.

Christine Wells said...

Minna, I suppose there will always be copyists and those whose art derives from or is influenced by what went before. Sometimes similar but different enough works, too. But I'd always say you need to be true to yourself rather than try to copy someone else very well.

Oh, Nora. Of course! I'm reading her Key series now and loving it.

Christine Wells said...

Hey Natalie, sounds like a good voice to have! Maybe you can't see it, but I bet an outsider will still see similarities in tone and style between your different books--maybe enough of a common thread to be a distinctive voice. But experimenting is a good thing to do. I hope you find the one voice that fits you like the proverbial.

Christine Wells said...

Hi Denise! Lovely to see you. Thanks so much for dropping in. Aren't you a sweetheart to say that about my voice? Ego is getting quite a nice stroking right about now;) And yes, I thought Jeeves might be a teensey giveaway! But you're not allowed to win, being my fabulous CP, so the prize is still up for grabs. I'll take you out for lunch instead:)

As for your voice, d, I'd say lyrical, sensual and decadent. Your heroes are certainly muscular (literally, of course--viz. Mr Gorgeous, but I mean their voices are muscular) I think earthy would also apply to your prose. I mean that in a fecund, bountiful way, not the earthy humour way. Hey, I know it's like English class but I'm enjoying it, anyway!

Christine Wells said...

Helen, we love having you with us. And do you know something? You have a very strong voice, yourself. Ha, we should have played 'guess the reader voice'. You've described a lot of authors I love, like SEP and Lisa Kleypas. Who are your favourites?

Christine Wells said...

Oh, boy, Carol, I'm wiping tears from my eyes. ‘In-Breeding Prevents Reading’
By Ima Peer
Hahahaha!!

Just for that, I will send you a little something. Love someone who twists the rules and makes them her own.

Beth said...

Eek! This assigment is really going to lower my grade point average. I'm terrible at describing my own voice. Let's see...emotional? I hope. Smart? I like to pretend so. Full of snark? Yeah, that one definitely.

Great post, Christine!

Congrats on grabbing the GR, Anna!

Kirsten said...

Christine, what an absolutely brilliant blog! I am so impressed. And I have NO IDEA (even after reading what Denise wrote) where those quotes came from. The only one on that list that I've read is Jane Austen.

I did notice that they all shared a certain descriptive character. With the exception of #2, which feels different to me, there's definitely a rhythm to these pieces that makes me think of you, Christine. So I wonder -- do we seek out writers with voices like our own? Hmmmm...

And as you've pointed out, our voices change depending on medium (blog v. book). Interesting related question -- do our voices change according to what genre we're writing in? YA v. adult romance?

Here's a contribution to the game, because I think we needed a touch of variety:

***
And then I saw her. At lunch. She wore an off-white dress so long it covered her shoes. It had ruffles around the neck and cuffs and looked like it could have been her great-grandmother's wedding gown. Her hair was the color of sand. . . .She did not carry a lunch tray. She did carry a large canvas bag with a life-sized sunflower painted on it. The lunchroom was dead silent as she walked by.

***
Aren't you dying to meet this girl? If you want to believe in first love, or celebrate the power of non-conformity, you must read this book.

In case you're wondering, this book was a NYT bestseller, Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults. It's also one of my absolute favorites of all time.

Kirsten said...

Carol, that was hilarious!! Definitely give that girl a prize!

Darcy, I would have to add something to your list about your voice -- something like, innocent, or vulnerable. That doesn't mean not sensual, because you've got that too. It's a freshness that I absolutely love. It's a beautiful quality.

Kammie said...

What fun, I'm going to try and play:

1. The Curse of the Pharaohs - Elizabeth Peters
2. The Dream Thief by Shana Abe
3.Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières
4. Persuasion by Jane Austen
5.Jeeves And The Tie That Binds by P.G. Wodehouse
6. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Kirsten said...

Oh, and let me add that my brilliant CP Susan Seyfarth has an absolutely EXTRAORDINARY voice. Engaging, self-deprecating, hilarious, sexy, charming, ohhh, I could go on and on.

As for me, I don't really have a voice. This is the bane of my existence as a writer. I'm convinced my voice has been lawyered out of existence. Or worse -- my voice sounds like a lawyer!! Waaaaaahhhhh!

PJ said...

Carol, that's one of the funniest things I've read in ages! LOL!

Tiffany Kenzie said...

evocative, sensual, titillating... hmmm kinda all the same. But there I am.

I can't place the quotes--nor can I give one.. i only tend to remember completely inappropriate things from books :) I have Henry Miller going through my head now. Which could mean many different quotes, but I'll tell you I was reading tropic of cancer recently :)

As for bands and whether I like them or not... If I can feel the music (tiff who's a huge fan of beethoven) then I'm probably going to like it, no matter the genre. Well that's a lie. I can't find it in me to like country music...sorry country music fans...lol

M. said...

great post. i think you had material here for 2 or 3!

good practice to push myself to define my voice, goes along with a recent workship attended about developing your own 'brand' - i'm going to say (in the hope that it's accurate and not just wishful thinking!) - QUIRKY, GENUINE, HILARIOUS

Loved the quotes!
#1 - the one and only Elizabeth Peters, I'm going to guess the second or third volume - 'Curse of the Pharoahs'? For many years, I wanted to BE Amelia.

#2 - something by Anne McGaffrey, the Pern series?

#3 - something by Marion Chesney?

#4 - no idea. maybe genuinely pre-20th century writer?

#5 - no idea, but the first person and use of name Jeeves makes me think it's a modern writer

#6 - no idea, but absolutely beautiful sentence. I want to read the book based on this single example.

M. said...

@ Carol:

" 'All creatures great and small' by Tricky Woo"

HA HA!
I loved that James Herriot series, and now, a good 20 years (yikes!) after reading it I can still summon the exact story of that severly overweight, indulged Pekinese dog!

louisa said...

Hey, La Campbell makes it almost worth going to p226's boot camp if the reward is Tim Tams!! Good on you for the Chook Capture!

What a great post, Christine. I think Kammie nailed the quotes. Way to go, Kammie!

Although, Carol's version CRACKED ME UP!!

I have to agree with Anna's take on your voice, Christine and your take on Anna's.

Darcy, I would say your voice is one that is going to be heard!

I perused some of my contest critiques and came up with the words "Witty, poignant and Heyeresque" to describe my voice. The last one is one of which I am ENORMOUSLY proud! I have it on three different critiques and yes I copied those and framed them to sit on my desk for those moments when I think "Why did I think I could do this!"

As La Campbell and Christine are two of my favorite authors, I will have to pick another from the list.

How about "Insightful, passionate and surprising" Any guesses as to who that might be?

terrio said...

I'll have to catch up on the comments later, but I love this blog. Voice is that...thing. Hard to explain but easy to spot.

Three words for my writing would be angst, sarcastic, sparse. That last one since my characters seem to live in empty spaces. :)

Don't know the quotes and no books with me at work. I'll try to post one this evening!

Congrats on the GR, Anna. I bet he's happy to be out of this heat!

Beth said...

LOL, Carol!! Great job!

Kirsten, I'm going to guess your quote is from Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.

And great questions about whether we seek out writers who have voices similar to our own. My first thought was YES! But the more I think about it, the more I realize some of my favorite authors have voices that are very different from my own. More lyrical and lush (love that word, Darcy!) than I could ever hope to be *g*

As far as if voice differs depending on which genre we're writing in, for me the answer is no. I only have a little bit of my YA written but so far the voice and tone are very similar to my contemporary romances :-)

Donna MacMeans said...

Wonderful, wonderful post Christine

I've had similar thoughts about American Idol. I can find so many parallels between that show and trying to become published. For exsample - you get this one shot. It's not the time to nail the easy, middle-of-the-road song. You need to strut your strengths.
Also - you don't criticize the indiustry professionals - ever *g*

It's hard to define one's own voice. It's like - hearing yourself on the answering machine and realizing that's not at all what you THOUGHT you sounded like. But here's my shot - sensuous, fun, easy.
Hey, that's me - easy *g*. Simple. Uncomplicated.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Leave it to you, Christine, to come up with a completely brilliant post & get everybody thinking.

I'm chagrined to admit that I couldn't identify any of your examples, though I'm with Beth on guessing Star Girl for Kirsten's.

And let me just say that although Kirsten continuously insists she has no voice, THIS IS NOT TRUE. As her faithful CP, I'm here to tell you she has a lovely voice. It's spare, elegant & lyrical, & conveys in one simple sentence an idea I would write endless rambling paragraphs trying to capture. For example, she once described a house as being "so small you could vaccuum the whole thing from one plug."

See what I mean? Elegant. Economical. Efficient. And yet..elegant. Gorgeous in its dead-on-ness, if I can coin a phrase. So when she bemoans her lack of voice, don't you believe it. Her voice is one of the reasons I love her work.

And the nice things she says about my voice is one of the reasons I love her. :-)

Now if I were to describe my own voice in three words or less, I can only say what I'm shooting for, not what I actually achieve. Here's my target:

1) True.
2) Emotional.
3) Amusing.

It's the tension between those three that keeps me writing. Because sure, true & emotional can go hand in hand. So can true & amusing. But all three? There's a tension there, a push/pull that I find ridiculously compelling. And my favorite authors (SEP springs to mind, along with La Crusie & most recently Marisa de los Santos) do it so well I avoid my keyboard for days trying to recover from the self-doubt. :-)

jennybrat said...

3 words to describe J D Robb-ironic, dreamy, tight.

jennybrat said...

#1 The Curse of the Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters
#2 The Dream Thief by Shana Abe
#3 Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
#4 Persuasion by Jane Austen
#5 Jeeves And The Tie That Binds by P.G. Wodehouse
#6 The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

MsHellion said...

I have no idea who those quotes are from. I'm suspecting you have a wider-range of books than me...those that don't involve romance novels or the occasional mystery/adventure book.

Three words that describe my writer's voice: IRREVERENT. DROLL. CHICK-LITISH. (Though not exactly...because I'm not nearly obsessed enough with shopping or big cities to be a true Chick Lit girl. I'm like small-town Southern Chick Lit.)

jennybrat said...

Here's one of my favorite quotes. I don't usually read first person, but this one is so irreverent and funny it made me a convert!

(Prior to this scene: The wind had just blown some of the heroine's new undies down the street):

One last pair, trembling next to a garbage bin, suddenly spun upward in a gust and flew a few feet down the sidewalk, their flight coming to a swift end as the pink satin and lace material wrapped itself in a soft caress around a man's leg. A man's leather clad leg. "Oh god," I moaned, closing my eyes for a second knowing exactly who owned that leg. Why me? Why did this sort of thing have to happen to me?

Pat Cochran said...

Congratulations, Anna, I hope the GR enjoys the Tim Tams!

As a reader and totally unlettered
as to the technicalities of writing, I am at a loss with this subject! There is an old saying regarding painting which ends
with "but I know what I like."
That is where I am with reading
and books: I know what I like and that is what I read! My special,
favorite authors include: Jane Austen, Sandy Blair, Anna Campbell,
Loretta Chase, Eloisa James,
Stephanie Laurens, Linda Lael
Miller, Susan E. Phillips, Julia
Quinn, Nora Roberts,Christine
Wells, and Annie West.

Pat Cochran

Cassondra said...

Christine, I love this blog.

Can't believe you singled me out for making you get emotional though. That's a compliment and I don't take it lightly so thank you.

Voice is one of the things that gives me the most angst. I know my journalism voice, but my fiction voice? WEll...not so much. One thing is certain--it's when a writer comes into his/her voice that he/she starts getting attention from the industry. The stronger the better.

There's a reason Elvis impersonators don't get record deals ya know? We only need ONE of each voice. Finding one as strong and sharp and individual as Elvis--or Crusie, or SEP or some of the others mentioned--I'd say that must be a real paydirt kind of day for an editor or agent. And you SO nailed it with the fact that it's not always the most perfectly polished voice that gets the attention--it's the one that's the most individual and the one that is the most emotionally moving. I think this is true in all art forms. And it's often love it or hate it. Take Michael Bolton for example. I happen to really like his deeply emotional, highly imperfect voice, his choice of material, and the production. Not for every day but his albums were the soundtrack to one of my manuscripts. My husband abhors that voice. But when you hear it, there's no doubt it's him.

Recently in a pitch session I described my voice as "A contemporary Anna Campbell meets Lisa Gardner." Not sure that's exactly right though. I'm more suspense than thriller, but the part about La Campbell was a grasp at a wish. I'd like to think I have the emotional honesty and angst of an Anna Campbell voice.

Cassondra said...

P226 said:

We'll see one day, though. We'll see if I have a voice.

Ah, I can tell you already that you do have one. And I recall another cyber hangout long ago and far away when YOU, sir, commented on several of us and said "I bet most of us could pick out _________'s posts and ___________'s and _______________'s even if we didn't see the username or avatar. I was one of those you mentioned. And that made me glad.

Yours is just as strong. I think they're different though--from venue to venue. There must be something that we retain though--some of my journalistic voice probably shows through in my fiction. I bet your no-nonsense kind of approach will show up in your fiction too. Muscular is a good word for it. Mine is more sharp and direct I think. Yours packs more of a punch. A slug vs an arrow maybe?

What an interesting discussion!

Cassondra said...

Hellion, you know that "Small town, Southern Chick Lit" is a great high concept moniker for a writer. Grabbed me right away. You ought to try it out in a pitch and see if it gets some attention. If I were an editor or agent, I'd bite that hook.

MsHellion said...

Thank you Cassondra! (Terri is going to be gloating now. She emailed me after seeing my post and said I needed to use that as a 'brand'/tagline. Now she's going to be saying "I told you so".) Okay, I'll have to play with it. *LOL*

Helen said...

Carol your post is fantastic

Christine as for my favourite authors I have so many some of them are
Anna Campbell Christine Wells Donna Macmeans Stephanie Laurens Anne Gracie Sara Bennett Jenna Petersen/Jess Michaels Shana Galen Victoria Alexander
I read a lot of authors and most of them are auto buys for me and there are lots that I have left off.
Have fun
Helen

Carol said...

Hi to all,

Glad you got a laugh Christine, but really you needn't reward ignorance!!!*g*

#1-germaine greer...remembering her antics way back...seemed to fit
that first passage!!

I must admit,some of my favourite hero/heroines are non-conformists.

Cheers Carol

Carol said...

Thanks everyone ...glad you had a laugh!
Yes... I can see that little Tricky Woo to this day! Funny how his name and image is so easy to recall!
Cheers Carol

catslady said...

As a reader I would have to say my 3 would be characterization, humor and emotion.

limecello said...

LOL Anna. Hmm... 3 words? Wow that's tough. Emotional, humorous, perfect. :P I'm not going to try on the quotes. lol I always get these things wrong.
Ok- I do know #4 is Austen - more specifically, Persuasion. Love that one.

p226 said...

Yours packs more of a punch. A slug vs an arrow maybe?

Wow. I can think of instances where I planned to land a straight right. Like a boxer, I'll set it up with jabs, a weave, and a short hook. It's been my intention in those instances to deliver that mind disconnecting, shock inducing blunt force. And in those instances, I feel like I'm very good at delivering those strikes. From the aftermath (read feedback) it's been clear to me that the blow sent readers reeling. Mission Accomplished.

And I can say with absolute certainty, that whatever voice I may have, does indeed from venue to venue.

I'm almost afraid to dwell on this concept. I fear I may subconsciously attempt to inject some voice into my writing. I really don't want to do that. It seems like the right method is to just let things flow. Whatever arrives on the page is just that. If it has a distinctive tone, then so be it. I wonder what people (particularly you guys) will think of my work when it's complete.

And I remember that incident far away and long ago. I stand by that statement. Cassondra's voice is distinct to me. Direct. Piercing at times. Much like an arrow, once it's in flight, you cannot avoid its point.

I've noticed some voices of others here too. Distinct ones. I don't know why, but I tend to catch them more in the humorous posts.

Anna Campbell said...

Darcy, great to see you here! And congratulations on the GH news!

Cindy, thank you. That was lovely!

Oh, Carol, I've had one of THOSE mornings and your post cracked me up so much, suddenly the sun is shining! Thank you! I especially like Kevin Rudd's memoirs. KR, for those not up with Aussie politics, is our esteemed Prime Minister.

Anna Campbell said...

Christine, you know, I can tell Helen's posts without seeing the signature. So, yes, Helen, you definitely do have a strong voice. I'd say kind, generous, funny.

Kirsten, what a great excerpt! What is it?

Hey, Kammie, I wonder if you could be right. I'd picked Captain Corelli. But I had no idea of the last one. It is a lovely sentence, as Carol said.

Anna Campbell said...

Jennybrat, that quote got me too. What is it?

Pat, that's a seriously starry list you've included me on there. THANK YOU!

All right. What's this from?

Matilda Goodnight stepped back from her latest mural and realized that of all the crimes she'd committed in her thirty-four years, painting the floor-to-ceiling reproduction of Van Gogh's sunflowers on Clarissa Donnelly's dining room wall was the one that was going to send her to hell.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Uhm...#4 quote is from Persuasion by Jane Austin! grins...one of my favorite books and movies!

Anna Campbell said...

Wow, Cassondra, can I have your babies? Do you want a kidney? I've got one of Christine's to spare. Thanks. Wow. What a lovely compliment!

Helen, mwah to you!!! Thank you for including me on another stellar list. Oh, my day is improving by the yard!

P226, you're right about Cassondra's voice. Completely unmistakable. I actually wonder if you've hit on something profound, though, when you said it's better to be unselfconscious about your own voice.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Wow, this is really a great post. It is times like this I wish I were a writer instead of a reader. I read everything from historical to paranormal. I have so many authors that I enjoy and the only link I can find among them all is they are believable. Their voices vary but I totally believe in all of their HEA.

Helen said...

Anna and Christine thanks for your posts I am sure to have a good day at work now and my June releases should be here today so a great weekend coming up I will finally have Donna and Jeanne's books in my hands as well as Olivia's I just have to decide which one to read first LOL.
Your voice to me Anna is moorish (I always want more of your books)filled with passion and really strong love it.
I have to go to work now wish I could stay and chat all day need to earn money so I can buy more books LOL
Have Fun
Helen

Anna Campbell said...

Helen, we'd love to have you stay. But as you're working in such a good cause, we think you SHOULD turn up today ;-) And thanks for those lovely compliments!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Tiff, I love Beethoven too, and can always pick out a piece by him. I might not know the title, but I can almost always say, "That's Beethoven!" and I'm correct!

ROFLOL, Jennybrat! That quote is from Katie MacAlister, one of her Aisling Grey books, I'm pretty sure. And Fo, your quote is Jenny Crusie's "Faking It" which I recently listened to on a road trip on books on tape. I recognized Elizabeth Peters, Jane Austen, and P.G. Wodehouse from Christine's quotes, but not the other two.

Louisa (sorry not used to that yet, still thinking doglady): "Insightful, passionate and surprising"
I'm thinking that sounds like Donna's voice. Am I right?

AC

peggy said...

romance, historical,love

Christine Wells said...

Beth, I'm really looking forward to reading Not Without My Family. Sounds like you have the kind of voice I enjoy.

Christine Wells said...

Kirsten, what a lovely excerpt. What book is it from? I think YA is such a fascinating genre. I'd love to read more of it. So, it's the simplicity and the freshness of that paragraph that makes it so beautiful, isn't it? Lots of one syllable words, uncomplicated sentence structure.

Had to laugh because after I picked those excerpts almost at random I realized you're right, Kirsten, they do have similar rhythm to mine--except probably the one from Shana Abe. I LOVE reading her prose but I could never emulate it. I suppose I'm attracted to wry irony but I'm also in awe of lush prose and conversely love simple and beautiful, too. There are so many riches out there!

Christine Wells said...

Oh, and Kirsten, how dare you say you don't have a voice?? I'm welling to be the farm that's not true.

Christine Wells said...

Kammie, Kammie, have you just been googling??

Christine Wells said...

Hi PJ! Thought you'd be hot on the trail of these quotes, being the master detective. I really miss Mystery Author, don't you?

Christine Wells said...

Hmm, Tiffany, your voice sounds really hawt! So, extrapolating from your love of music, if you were an editor you'd buy just about everybody--except maybe Westerns?*g*

Christine Wells said...

Ooh, M, I like quirky! You got EP right. Just love her to death. Yes, isn't the last one a great quote? I was going to go with the first para on page one but then that caught my eye and I thought I'd put it in just to be a bit tricky.

Anna Campbell said...

Jenny Crusie LOVES long sentences. I think that first line of Faking It just screams her voice. The ironic humour. The logical progression of what in truth is a high complex sentence.

Christine Wells said...

Louisa, could it be Cassondra? Although a few of us might fit the bill. Thanks so much for endorsing Anna's reading of my voice, that's so kind. Am preening quietly down here in Oz.

And yes, it is a huge compliment that your voice is Heyeresque because it shows how well you've nailed the period. HOwever, I'm sure you bring your own unique style to the stories. I know we're going to see you on the shelves very soon.

Christine Wells said...

Hi Terrio! Angst, sarcastic, sparse sounds like a fascinating mix. Are you a romance writer? What subgenre?

Christine Wells said...

Beth, you're so right. I do enjoy reading books similar to my voice but sometimes I'll read this lush beautiful prose and it just hits me where it hurts. The Smoke Thief was like that--just breathtaking.

Christine Wells said...

Donna, I'd agree with sensual. I'd also say naughty (in the best way) and sexy. Such a great combination.

Everyone, if you want to read Donna's sensual, naughty, sexy, fun and easy novels, The Trouble With Moonlight is ON SALE NOW!!

Go and buy it! You'll love it, I promise.

terrio said...

Christine - I'm working toward being a writer I'd say. LOL! I write contemporaries. Still working on my first WIP with lots of characters (im)patiently waiting their turn.

Hellion - told you so. *g*

Christine Wells said...

Susan, I knew it!! I knew Kirsten was being too hard on herself. But I also know what it's like to try to write with personality when you've been systematically stripping emotion and inflexion from your writing as a lawyer.

What you say about the tension between the characteristics of your voice really struck me. It's what makes SEP and Crusie so fantastically popular. It's funny but it's not fluff. There's deep emotion there, too. Wow, Susan, I cannot wait to read your stuff!

Christine Wells said...

Jennybrat, I'm intrigued by the 'dreamy'. I haven't read JD Robb, though I've read a lot of Nora. Must try one to see what you mean.

Christine Wells said...

MsHellion, I have a relatively small bookshelf with all the classics I love and the novels I would never part with and it's separate from my romance bookcase with that keeper shelf. Shana Abe's book was handy--it belongs in romance but it is one I would read for the prose alone.

Hmm, I like irreverent and droll--sounds fab. Please, please don't mention chick-lit to an editor or agent. Please!!! They'll run a mile from that tag, even though they might love, love, love your voice if they had a chance to read it. Sorry, can't resist gratuitous advice. I'll butt out now.

Christine Wells said...

LOL, Jennybrat! I love the 'soft caress'. That's great writing!

Christine Wells said...

Pat, you've hit the nail on the head--we all know what we like and that's the most important thing for commercial fiction writers. That's why it's called popular fiction after all. We give people stuff they like;)

Christine Wells said...

Oh, and I meant to say, Pat, my you have good taste!*g*

Christine Wells said...

Cassondra, I cannot WAIT for your fiction voice to find a home. Whatever it might be, I have no doubt it will be powerful, emotional and honest. It's going to be so good it hurts to read it.

Christine Wells said...

Ack, sorry, I need to go but I'll be back soon! This has been such a great discussion.

flchen1 said...

Hi again, everyone! Christine, I've gotten some more sleep but that hasn't helped me a whit with the passages--clearly I don't read enough! ;)

I'm enjoying the discussion though :)

Christine Wells said...

Helen, thanks so much! What great company to be in. I'm so flattered.

jennybrat said...

Hi Anna, Loucinda correctly identified the author. It's from Fire Me Up, the second book in the Aisling Grey series by Katie MacAlister.

jennybrat said...

Christine, J D Robb is especially dreamy when she describes Ireland and the emotions between Eve and Roarke.

Christine Wells said...

Hi Catslady, thanks for your comment! This keeps coming up, doesn't it? People want emotion with the humor or an edge with their humor. And great characterization will always draw me in, too. I suppose most of my quotes started with character, because that's what I read for.

Kammie said...

lol, Christine. I was playing during breakfast and knew two right off the top of my head. The others were very hard and I don't even know if I got them right. Work was calling and I had to stop and just post what I had.

Christine Wells said...

Hi Limecello. Now your name has a voice all its own! Absolute poetry. And yep, that first line was Persuasion--you guessed right.

Christine Wells said...

P226 said: really don't want to do that. It seems like the right method is to just let things flow.

You know, that's when I tend to delve into my true voice--when the magic comes and the words are flowing. Strangely, I notice it because my spelling goes out the window and I am a pretty good speller when I'm not 'in the zone'. Yep, better not to think about it. Your voice is strong so you don't need to do anything to change it. Just protect it for all it's worth!

Christine Wells said...

Actually, I have a story about finding your true voice. There's a local author who's 'done good' called Nick Earls. Nick started out writing literary fiction and got rejections. Then he stood up at a writers' conference one day and gave a hilarious speech about the rejections he'd received. He had the audience in stitches and someone said to him--why aren't you writing the way you talk? He did, and now his books are being made into plays and films.

So sometimes, you need to find your true voice. Working like a dog to change it isn't the answer but sometimes a change of mood or subgenre will do the trick. Just play and have fun. When you're having the most fun writing, that's probably your true voice.

Christine Wells said...

Anna, too easy. As soon as you said her name I knew the book! But JC has one of the most distinctive voices in the biz, doesn't she?

Christine Wells said...

Suz--kudos to you! You're right, it is Persuasion. Couldn't quote without including the inimitable Jane.

Hey, no passing on my kidneys, Fo! That was a non-assignable asset I gave you!

Christine Wells said...

Hi Dianna, yes, it is a gift to be able to draw the reader in and make them believe in the HEA ending of a romance. Thanks for your comment. If you do decide to take up your pen one day, we'll all be big fans!

Christine Wells said...

Helen I envy you the bounty you are about to receive! I'm going to town on Monday to replenish my stock with BANDITA BOOKS. Yay!

Yes, second your comments about Anna's books. We'll just have to reread CTC and Untouched until the next one comes out! Although I've read the next one and it's a doozy! Hee. Don't mean to gloat or anything. Oh, well, yes I do.

Christine Wells said...

Hey, great detective work, Aunty Cindy! I didn't expect anyone to get the last one correct, actually. Though I suspect we have some googlers on our hands. *g*

Christine Wells said...

Peggy, those words could cover a lot of writers--I simply can't guess! Do tell who you're talking about!

Christine Wells said...

Anna, I always find Jenny Crusie incredibly direct, too. eg she would not have started the above sentence with 'I always find'. There are never extraneous qualifiers in her sentences. A masterly analysis btw.

Christine Wells said...

Terrio--Yes, you are a writer. Say it with me!LOL A fantastic adventure, writing the first book, isn't it? The very best of luck to you with that.

Fedora--no worries! They are a little obscure and only one is a genre romance. Thanks for poppin in again.*g*

Jennybrat--Ok I get the dreamy. There's quite a bit of Irish folklore and fantasy in the Key series, too.

Tiffany Kenzie said...

Christine... that western comment is too funny! I like lush, lyrical 'pretty' but honest prose--Beethoven is pure, raw, unadulterated passion in every note quilled to the stave.
Shana Abé is one of my favs for lyrical, if you want another really lyrical fairytale quality story teller--Juliet Marillier--Wolfskin and Foxmask.

See--I'm a book pusher all the way :)

Christine Wells said...

Kammie, looks like you've won yourself a book! Great work, and all during breakfast, too. Thanks for dropping back in!

PJ said...

Hi Christine!

I've been running around all day. No time to rev those detecting engines. (grin) Yes, I do miss Mystery Author. I miss the whole Forum but we have some terrific reviews on the blog and more coming so I hope you'll stop by and say hello occasionally.

I second your remarks about The Trouble with Moonlight. I loved this book. Donna, you rock!

Dina said...

I have a few favs, so I'll combine them for: clever, tantalizing and funny.

Christine Wells said...

PJ, RNTV is on my regular blog round. Wouldn't miss it! Don't always have time to comment but I'm a loyal reader. There's always something cool happening over there and of course the video interviews are wonderful, too.

Christine Wells said...

Dina, 'tantalizing' is an interesting one. Do you like authors who draw out the tension and keep you in suspense?

Christine Wells said...

Sorry, Tiffany, I missed you in there. Oh, goody another recommendation. My goodness my TBR pile is going to require its own accommodation soon. Thanks for that! If you like Beethoven, my guess is you'd love Anna Campbell. She's the Beethoven of romance authors.

Tiffany Kenzie said...

Oh I more than adore Anna... she knows it, in case she doesn't I'll repeat it here...

I wanna be just like you AC! only I have a tendency to write a lot of sex ;) LOL

I lurve all the romantics in composition, so fitting since I write romance :)

Cassondra said...

P226 said:

I'm almost afraid to dwell on this concept. I fear I may subconsciously attempt to inject some voice into my writing.

Don't dwell. It'll screw up your writing. Just write.

Okay, other people have said the same to me, and has it worked? Of course not.

But it's good advice nonetheless.

Cassondra said...

Fo said:

Matilda Goodnight stepped back from her latest mural and realized that of all the crimes she'd committed in her thirty-four years, painting the floor-to-ceiling reproduction of Van Gogh's sunflowers on Clarissa Donnelly's dining room wall was the one that was going to send her to hell.

That's Jennie Crusie from "Faking It" isn't it?

Oh Lord, I could be SO wrong. The name doesn't ring the bell. It's the Van Gogh that does it. Oh, and Hell. Is Hell spelled with a capital H?

Cassondra said...

Fo (Anna Campbell) wrote: Wow, Cassondra, can I have your babies?

No.

The kidney, however... I may hold out for that, since I'm aging rapidly. Who knows when a girl might need a kidney. Particularly with the volume of Chenin Blanc I'm presently consuming. Hmmm. Wonder if I'm a match for you or Madame?

Christine Wells said...

Foanna, will you STOP offering my kidneys around? Sheesh!

Dina said...

Hi Christine,

Yes, in some books I do like it when the story keeps me in suspense and the tenions builds and then there are others that I can't wait to get to it, lol.

Dina said...

Geez, I can't spell tonight, I meant to say tension, lol

Kirsten said...

Yes, that was Stargirl! Way to go Beth and Susan! You know he wrote a sequel, but I can't bear to read it. Stargirl stands on its own. Christine, it's YA and its fabulous. Highly recommended.

Anna Campbell said...

Christine, WOW! The Beethoven of romance? I LIKE it! Whereas I think of you more as the Mozart of romance. You know, that perfection of taste and touch that never fails.

Tiffany, you are gorgeous! Thank you. By the way, do you love me enough to give a kidney to Cassondra. I wasn't actually offering one of mine and Christine seems to have sidestepped on her deal ;-)

Christine Wells said...

Fo--Hmm, funny that. I used to write with Mozart in the background. But he's a little shallow and populist, isn't he?*g* Wonder what the reaction will be when IP comes out.

And hey, I'm not reneging on the kidney deal but I've only got two! You're giving them out like smarties.

Anna Campbell said...

Hmm, I think at a pinch, I'd have a Smartie over a kindye, except in exceptional circumtanceds ;-)

Oh, no, Mozart is incredibly profound. Amazing music. And just perfect. Seriously, I think he was a far greater composer than Beethoven.

Anna Campbell said...

That was meant to read 'kidney'. Guess who had a glass of wine with lunch! Hic!

Christine Wells said...

Interesting--I enjoy both composers but I'm a bit of a Philistine when it comes to music. I know what I like;)

Smarties vs kidneys. Don't think we will ever have to make the choice, thank goodness!

Christine Wells said...

Kirsten, I bet if you loved Stargirl, I will--quite apart from all the other recommendations it's getting. I will put that on my list. Thanks!

Pat Cochran said...

Thanks, Christine!

Pat Cochran

Donna MacMeans said...

Sorry I haven't been around to play but I'm feverishly working to meet a deadline. Just wanted to bop in and say a big Thank You to Christine & PJ on their praise for THE TROUBLE WITH MOONLIGHT. It really is a fun story. Thanks again

jo robertson said...

Christine, what a wonderful post. I loved the discussion of voice and the varied examples. Sorry, I'm so late to the party!

Tiffany Kenzie said...

Gasp.... you did not just say Mozart was far better than Beethoven... [GASP]can't...breathe....
And I ain't comparing the two of you and your writing...
still...can't...breathe... noooooooooooooooooo.... you could argue Bach. I'll have to say Mozart is mostly fluff... and I should love him a little more since he introduced clarinet into orchestral arrangements on a permanent basis--but I just can't do it.

sorry, excuse my crazy rantings--it's not a nice night for insomnia... work is going to suck on so many levels tomorrow.

Anna Campbell said...

Ah, how to be controversial in the lair! Of course, that's JUST my opinion! But if you listen to something like the 23rd piano concerto or parts of the Magic Flute or Don Giovanni or the Ave Verum Corpus (which always makes me want to cry), you'll see what I mean. And hey, my other greatest composer ever is Bach, who might even be greater than Mozart! ;-)

Christine Wells said...

So, Fo, who writes like Bach, then? Oh, boy. I need to go to bed.

Tiffany Kenzie said...

teehee... no controversy here. Okay just a bit, cause I'm a huge lover of the romantics :) I can't help it. And the only thing of Mozart's I find moving and in equivalence to my fav romantics is his requiem--namely, the confutatis and lacrimosa--okay, so the Ave Verum is nice too. And I know, everyone likes those, makes me seem so unoriginal. :) But the romantics have passion. I love passion and the emotional impact of Beethoven is hard to match.

Tiffany Kenzie said...

That's a good questions. Who is the Bach of the writing world? Nora Roberts?

Anna Campbell said...

Actually I think someone like Dorothy Dunnett has something like the scope of Bach, but seriously, I don't know anyone or anything who comes close to him. Sorry - huge Bach fan here ;-) Tiff, I LOVE the romantics too! Give me my Rach!!! I think we could find a CD or two that we'd be happy to listen to together.

Cassondra said...

Uhmmmm...

I like Mozart AND Bach better than Beethoven.

I like certain Beethoven.

Not dissin' Beethoven or anything. And I am certainly no expert. He just gets a bit...well...heavy and intense sometimes and the others are more likely to make my spirit soar.

My fav when I go to the symphony is Mahler. I like the way he broke the rules and blended the "genres"...if one could call them genres.....
(ducking)

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Miss C, and to think I've just left a comment saying we had similar taste. I can't STAND Mahler. He makes my gut clench with horror. ;-) Not that I'm being at all overdramatic or anything.

Christine Wells said...

Can't believe I still haven't read Dorothy Dunnett! Must do so immediately if she's fiction's answer to Bach!

Tiffany Kenzie said...

Don't know Dunnett... I said NR because of the quantity she outputs...

MAhler, don't mind. And It's the intensity of Beethoven I love....
Anna... you better believe I love Rachmaninoff...

Caren Crane said...

Dang! I can't believe I missed this blog. Guess why? I was recovering from...an REM concert!! Which was fabulous, btw. Michael Stipes is SUCH a showman!

I reflected, whilst listening to "Pretty Persuasion" (which they performed for the first time in YEARS and Michael said was a song about "growing up queer in the South *g*) that Michael always had such a distinctive voice, but also a distinctive way of voicing his world view. Lots of protest songs there: Michael protests everything. *g*

They performed a number of songs they rarely drag out anymore because NC was the first market that bought into them once they ventured out of Georgia. I've been a fan since 1982!

Kammie said...

Thank you so much! Please let me know where to send my address.

jennybrat said...

Christine, the J D Robb series aren't the same as her Nora Roberts Irish stories. No paranormal elements and the folklores when they are mentioned are usually the basis of the homicide...so not what I'd think of dreamy. Ireland's part of Roarke's background since he came from Dublin. You've to read it to see what I mean.